I’m awake earlier than I wanted to be and can’t get back to sleep, so I thought I may as well do something rather than only lie there fuming about Llew’s alarm going off an hour and a half early, while I was in a deep sleep. Things like this, such small things, that impact my sleep, now make me feel positively deadly. I feel cheated. No longer able to go back to sleep easily – or ever, it seems – being woken by something like an alarm that wasn’t reset makes me want to scream. I’m still tired. I needed the sleep. And Llew is unaffected by the mistake – he can just roll over and be softly snoring in moments. This, too, makes my blood boil while I thrash about, awake awake awake.
So I’m angry to be up – I can’t help it, my days are long and exhausting and I need sleep – but at least I am embarked upon something more productive than insomnia, and now I’m writing I’ll tell you about why Llew’s alarm was set for such an obnoxious hour. On a whim a few weeks ago, he signed us both up for the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon.
Yes, that’s what I thought too. I have managed a dozen or so – surely not two dozen – 5 kilometre runs since Master J’s been born. While we were away, we managed two apiece that were closer to 8 kms. But that’s it. Not even a 10 km run between us, and now 21 kms…? Sheer folly.
We genuinely didn’t know if either of us would make it, but I was absolutely thrilled just to be given licence to go for a two-hour run, and I intended to make the most of it.
Llew’s parents were delighted to hear we were attempting it, very supportive, and ultimately threw everything they had at us to help us manage Master J’s needs as well as make the run. They offered to babysit during the run, but because a trial wake-up backfired (we tested how he’d react to having someone else go through his morning routine with him instead of us, so Llew’s sister stayed over one night and went in to him first thing, and it was pretty traumatic all round), they also offered to stay downtown with us so we could do the morning routine as usual, I could feed him before the race, and we’d be able to get back quickly afterwards. My father-in-law made enquiries at his club (discussed in a previous post), and believe it or not (I didn’t think this would be the case in a FIT), we were allowed to bring our 5-month-old to stay. He just wasn’t allowed in any of the communal areas, which we weren’t going to use anyway. I tell you what, I don’t know how we’re going to keep this kid in the manner to which he’s growing accustomed – he’s certainly doing pretty well so far!
It made a real event out of the race – we all met at the club in the afternoon, and took Master J out for an early dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, where Llew’s sister also joined in the festivities. Master J behaved beautifully throughout, and when we returned to the club to retire, he really seemed to grasp the implications of seeing his portacot again, and promptly fell asleep. We weren’t so lucky, both of us spending an all but sleepless night. Pre-race jitters, no doubt, as well as alternating between being too cold (me), at which point the heating went on, to being too hot (Llew), at which point the heating went off. We didn’t seem able to master a happy medium, so it was one of the worst sleeps on record despite all the creature comforts one might possibly require and a sleeping baby to boot.
The day dawned clear and cold. An early morning wind howled up the empty corridors that lead straight off the harbour from Circular Quay and feed into the city. From our 7th floor window, Sydney felt braced for the thousands of pairs of feet that were soon to come pounding its streets. I fed Master J, the cup of tea beside me doing its vital work. Llew and I dressed and each ate a banana. We handed over our little man to his doting grandparents and left them playing happily in the room across the hall from ours. When we stepped out of the club’s main doors, I felt the familiar stirrings of adrenaline. The shock of cold air whipped the breath straight out of me, and we began trotting south toward the Start line a few blocks away. We were alone but for other runners, the traffic cleared for the race and the hour dictating that most people were still soundly sleeping.
As we came off Macquarie Street and into Hyde Park, crossing over toward the College Street Start line directly in front of St Mary’s Catherdral, I realised how happy I was to be there, and I thanked Llew for signing us up. Over 13,000 people registered for the event, so there was a decent crowd of people warming up, queuing for the toilets (though in my opinion, port-a-loos are perhaps the most depraved convenience of the modern world), and generally killing time before the gun sounded. We’d cut things pretty fine, so it duly did only minutes after our arrival. We watched the crowd surge slowly forward without bothering to join it – beyond the serious athletes at the front, no one was making rapid progress. Besides which, all runners were individually tagged. This is fantastic technology that means you record an exact individual time, and you’re not even on the clock until you cross the line. There was no need to rush the crush. A full ten minutes after the gun sounded, Llew and I wished each other luck and we were off.
I love fun runs. The atmosphere is always completely contagious, and the encouraging shouts of spectators truly make all the difference. Sometimes it’s only a well-timed cheer that keeps me going – although not on this occasion. I opted out of fun runs back before we even started IVF, so I was fairly blissed just being there. I didn’t need anything but the race itself. I took it very, very easy because I had no idea how my body would fare over 21 kilometres, plus it was a new course with which I was unfamiliar. I was wary of unexpected hills, so rampant in Sydney’s CBD; they’re uniquely brutalising in race conditions, so I maintained a very comfortable pace just to be on the safe side. I hadn’t done the training, so it had to be safety first.
The new single-lap course is spectacular, and much easier going than the previous two-lap course, which had killer burn potential thanks to Hunter Street hell. It’s just so satisfying running through a ghost town, which Sydney is at that hour, using roads that are usually reserved for vehicles to see the city from an entirely different perspective. Up and back along the Cahill Expressway at either end of the race was a highlight, with its outrageous views out over Sydney Harbour: the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the first ferries and the glinting water all gleaming in the morning light. The Rocks precinct was another favourite leg – it’s an area I love anyway, but the soundtrack of thumping feet echoing through those old residential streets and bouncing off convict-constructed sandstone walls… well, what’s not to love?
I finished with a huge smile and plenty in the tank – I was just so excited to be running I almost felt I could go again. Typical of my slightly unhinged personality, my only regret is that I didn’t push myself harder, but with no training and no idea how I’d fare, I really had no concept of what was around the next bend and the one after that… but when I finished with a time of 2 hours 2 minutes and 23 seconds, all I could think was – and yes, I do know this is because I’m INSANE – ‘I should’ve gone faster…’
Ah, it was great to be running again.